Normally when a person thinks of a swimming pool they wind up with happy thoughts and fond memories… but not the case anymore for a New Jersey family that recently lost a loved one to drowning accident that authorities believe may have occurred because of (very) cloudy pool water.

What? Cloudy pool water KILLED someone?!? Sadly, yes.

Authorities in Albany, Georgia responded to an emergency call involving a missing teenage boy in a swimming pool and arrived to find the pool so green and cloudy that they could barely see a foot down into the water — and no one at the pool had seen the boy in quite a while.

ALBANY, GA – The condition of the water in a back yard swimming pool in Radium Springs may have contributed to the drowning of a teenager.

15-year-old Jamar Ponder was in town from New Jersey visiting relatives.

Late Tuesday afternoon, he went under the water while swimming with his cousins at the pool on North Rosewood Drive. The water was cloudy, and experts say that is dangerous.

“A group of kids were swimming and they lost one of them and didn’t recognize where he was at and couldn’t find him,” said Albany Fire Chief James Carswell.

A call was made to 911 and within minutes firefighters were on the scene. But even first responders who dove in the pool couldn’t see the teen at the bottom.

“The water clarity was such that you couldn’t see the hand in front of your face, per say. So they actually had to feel with their hands,” Carswell said.

The incident report details the water’s condition as “very murky and green.” The pool was so deep, rescuers “couldn’t make it all the way to bottom.”

Firefighter Brian Anderson used a Self Contained Breathing Apparatus to locate the teen at the bottom of the pool.

It’s not clear how long the teen, who witnesses say was attempting to swim from one side to other, was underwater.

Ponder was rushed to Phoebe Putney Hospital where he died.

“If you can’t see the main drain, it’s not safe to enter the water,” said Jeffrey DuMott. aquatics director at Albany’s YMCA.

Statistics show that cloudy or murky water is a contributing factor in nearly 10% of drownings.

Last year a woman drowned in a Massachusetts public pool and wasn’t found for 2 days due to the poor visibility of the water. ( source )

Judging by the description of the water given by emergency responders, we suspect the pool recently had a bad algae problem that its owners had only recently attempted to address with a heavy dose of sanitizer or shock. Very green, algae-infested water usually turns cloudy after the addition of shock and it takes time for the filter to catch all of the dead algae.

Ultra-Clear Natural Clarifier
Ultra-Clear Natural Clarifier

Clearing up cloudy water

As with most water chemistry issues resolving a cloudy water situation first requires the correction of any water chemistry imbalances (i.e. pH, Total Alkalinity, Sanitizer Levels, etc.) and enough time for the pool’s filter to do its job.

If you believe you have a need for chemicals to balance your pool water, InTheSwim.Com carries a wide variety of supplies that may come in handy — and they tend to ship quite fast!

Do pool water clarifiers help?

In some respects, yes, but only if the pool owner/operator keeps a close eye on the pool filter’s pressure gauge. Clarifiers do make it easier for a pool filter to catch suspended dead algae particles, yes, but that also means the filter will need to get backwashed more frequently… or water in the pool will not get circulated properly and pools that lack proper circulation will take longer to clear up.

Poorly circulated pool water may also mean that pockets of the chemicals added in the clean up effort will not get distributed evenly and that may, as in the case of certain chlorine shock treatments, result in areas of pool water with very high chlorine concentrations that could potentially harm liners or other pool components.

Algae Attack Value Pack
Algae Attack Value Pack

Basic steps to clean up green/cloudy pool water

  1. Make sure pump & filter running optimally (i.e. clean filter thoroughly)
  2. Test for critical pool water quality parameters and balance the pool chemistry (pH, alkalinity, hardness, stabilizer, etc.) accordingly
  3. Brush wall and floor areas thoroughly and remove any ‘large’ or ‘solid’ material from the water using a skimmer or leaf net
  4. Add the appropriate amount of shock treatment to the pool water
  5. Allow filter to run non-stop and backwash filter when needed
  6. Once water clears up perform a thorough cleaning of the filter, balance the critical pool water quality parameters (including the sanitizer level), and enjoy your sparkling clear pool water

Those simple steps cleared up algae and cloudy water problems in customer pools time and time again BUT every once in a while we stumbled across a pool that defied the rules and we had to employ backup methods such as clarifiers, flocculants, non-chlorine shock treatments, etc.

Moral of the story

Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family of the young man who lost his life in Atlanta, GA earlier this week possibly as a result of getting disoriented under the water in extremely cloudy pool water. More than likely that teen did not have to die so please, everyone, if you cannot see the main drain of a pool from the surface you do not need to get in that water.

Swim safe and in clear, clean water this Summer!